Regarding men who believe they have a right to sex

Read our volunteer Cecilias thoughts about men and prostitution. 

We must never allow the conversation on sex buying and prostitution to be dominated and defined by people who believe it’s a human (or men’s) right to have sex, and that this “right” is more important than to protect vulnerable people, to prevent exploitation and to work for a structural liberation of women. Men’s demand for sex is not an argument for men’s right to buy sex. Ever. Especially not when studies show 9 in 10 women in prostitution would want to get out if they could. Especially not when many people can’t get out of prostitution because of social and economic vulnerability, homelessness, trauma, mental illnesses or threats and fear of violence – situations that definitely don’t constitute basic conditions for free choices. Especially not since studies show a link between a legalization of buying sex and an increased trafficking for sexual purposes. Especially not when the very act of buying sex signifies a objectifying view of those selling sex (in most cases, you’re not having sex with a person who wants to, you’re having “sex” with a person who needs the money), which poses a large threat to their safety. “To work at a legal brothel is neither particularly dangerous nor unhealthy”, Peter Singer, professor in Applied Ethics, wrote in Helsingborgs Dagblad on November 23d 2016. I would really like him and everyone who thinks like him to read the testimonies of women on what the situation is like in some legal brothels in Germany, where women faint from exhaustion because they have to see so many sex buyers a day, and the brothels “offer” services that are absolutely unhealthy for the women. Furthermore, I would like everyone with this argument to look at the fact that in Germany, almost 70 women in prostitution have been murdered since 2002, when buying sex was made legal. In Sweden, not one murder of a woman selling sex where the perpetrator was a pimp or a sex buyer has been committed since the law against buying sex was adopted. Not dangerous? There are enough testimonies and statements, from sex buyers as well, for us to be able to make an obvious connection between buying sex and misogyny and the will to harm women. To protect women from being exposed to this is so much more important than the “free choices” of privileged individuals and men’s “right” to buy sex.

A while back I read an excerpt from a conversation between the Prostitution Unit of the police and a woman in prostitution, where she said: “What hurts me the most is that most of the men I meet actually seem to believe that I love what I do”. These are words no one must ignore. These are words no one must refuse to listen to.

The freedom of the individual is not more important than the safety and lives of many people, or the structural liberation of above all women living in vulnerability, risking exploitation. The argument of it being a free choice is irrelevant when women in most cases are living under conditions that make free choices impossible. For those who feel like bringing up the difference between the sex industry and sex trafficking there are studies showing that trafficking increases with the legalization of sex buying.

This is not a theoretical question, it is a question of human beings of flesh and blood, whose safety we should prioritize both short term and long term. It’s not about moralizing. It’s about compassion, and prioritizing and protecting those most vulnerable. It’s about working to bring about a world where an objectifying view of women is not giving legitimacy. It’s about the pain and subjugation of women. It’s about not running errands for the men who want to exploit and hurt women. It’s never those in prostitution who should be criminalized, stigmatized or blamed. We must put all our focus and all blame where it belongs: with the sex buyers. Those, whose demand should not be given legitimacy. Those, who should always be criminalized and condemned.

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